Review by John Larkin
Being trapped in an isolated cabin with four stubborn religious zealots - who are convinced that they must stop the apocalypse by forcing you to chose amongst your family who will die for humanity to survive - is a wonderfully terrifying and tense premise setup for a great thriller. While M. Night makes the proceedings compelling to watch, there are flaws throughout that prevent it from making it one of his best.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN is based on the 2018 novel Cabin at the End of the World by author Paul G. Tremblay. After some research I discovered M. Night made made some big plot changes from the book - most notably the fate of one of the family members and the ending which is ambiguous in the book but becomes clear and concrete in the film. I don't blame him for wanting to make the changes, as following the route of the book would have made the film much more of a dreary experience - but it probably would have made the film stronger to keep things as they were in the original novel.
Dave Bautista as the leader of the group gives the performance of the year so far, displaying a tortured and conflicted psyche that feels chillingly real. Unfortunately the other members of the group aren't as convincing and it took the tension and fear out of the whole situation for me. I wanted to feel more connected to the family being held hostage but the film doesn't give us enough time with them alone other than a handful of one minute flashback scenes of their life before arriving at the cabin.
I miss the M. Night Shyamalan from twenty plus years ago where there was a juicy twist waiting for the audience at the end. This one really felt like it was building to a good one but then concluded in a very traditional fashion that made me feel let down. The film would have been stronger if the "big question" was left unanswered for the audience to ponder. As M. Night continues to mature he seems to be ideologically softening and looking for closure on his grapple with faith.
Although ultimately disappointing, it's a solid enough thriller that keeps you thinking and engaged enough throughout. If anything go for just Bautista's performance which cancels out a good chunk of the flaws that prevent KNOCK from being great.